The half-brother of President Barack Obama has revealed in a memoir that their father was a physically abusive alcoholic, and that he is still traumatized by the sounds of his mother's screaming during violent attacks.
"I remember the sounds of my mother's screams and I remember the sounds of breaking, things breaking. And I remember that I couldn't protect her. That's something that no child ever forgets," Mark Obama Ndesandjo shared in an interview with CNN on Friday.
"My father actually broke -- came in the door, against the restraining order, and held a knife to my mother's throat," he said, desciribing an episode when he was only 6 or 7.
The U.S. president's father, Barack Obama, Sr., was not around for much of his childhood, according to accounts. Obama's mother was his second wife, while Ndesandjo's mother was his third wife, and Ndesandjo had to spend more time with their father than Obama did.
David Maraniss, author of Barack Obama: The Story, noted that the president would have had a "much more difficult upbringing" if he had to live with his father.
Obama has often paid tribute to his mother, Ann Dunham, but has reflected on his father's absence in his life.
"I was raised by a heroic single mom, wonderful grandparents – made incredible sacrifices for me. ... But I sure wish I had had a father who was not only present, but involved. Didn't know my dad. And so my whole life, I've tried to be for Michelle and my girls what my father was not for my mother and me," the president told the graduates of Morehouse College, an all-black male college in Atlanta, Ga., earlier this year.
"I want to break that cycle where a father is not at home, where a father is not helping to raise that son or daughter. I want to be a better father, a better husband, a better man. ... Everything else is unfulfilled if we fail at family, if we fail at that responsibility."
Ndesandjo reflected that his half-brother might not be recognizing just how abusive their father really was, however.
"Barack I don't think accepts -- or at least does not want to know -- the details of the beatings that occurred in our family," he continued. "I love my brother. He's a great president. Sometimes he's a lousy brother."
Ndesandjo added that he hopes "Cultures: My Odyssey of Self-Discovery, which is set to be published in February, will raise awareness for domestic violence. Part of the proceeds will go to his foundation for disadvantaged children.